Members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and the Business Advisory Committee met with the Riverhead Town Board and Community Development Director Dawn Thomas on March 16. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Town officials are not ready to set aside major recommendations of the pattern book, effectively rebuffing an effort by the Business Advisory Committee to revise the proposed code written to implement the $175,000 downtown study.

Business Advisory Committee members Martin Sendlewski and Diane Burke came before the board at today’s work session to discuss the revisions they sought. They left with orders to meet with the Downtown Revitalization Committee, and staff members from the community development, planning and legal departments, to hash out the changes they seek.

Sendlewski and Burke presented the Town Board with a marked-up version of the code on which the board held a public hearing last May. Sendlewski, an architect, explained the Business Advisory Committee’s proposed changes.

MORE COVERAGE: Fate of downtown pattern book code remains up in the air due to continuing objections of town’s Business Advisory Committee

But Supervisor Yvette Aguiar objected to the discussion taking place without including the Downtown Revitalization Committee, which initiated the pattern book study, or the town’s head planner, Jefferson Murphree, or Dawn Thomas of the community development department or the town attorney’s office.

Downtown Revitalization Committee co-chairpersons James Farley and Janice Scherer were in the audience for today’s meeting. The supervisor asked them, along with Community Development Director Dawn Thomas, to come to the table and join the discussion.

“It seems like we need to make more of a connection, a nexus between you guys, our planner and the business advisory…I don’t think that you were part of this. Were you?” Aguiar said to Scherer.

“No,” Scherer answered. “We were hoping to work together. This sort of came out in advance of that. The Business Advisory Committee took up the charge, but we still think there’s some work to be done.”

Riverhead architect Martin Sendlewski argues against some of the DC-1 code revisions that would implement the pattern book’s recommendations. Photo: Denise Civiletti

At a Town Board public hearing last May, Sendlewski, an architect, raised numerous objections to the proposed code, which he called subjective and too restrictive. He summarized his concerns in an email to the Town Board.

Days afterward, Council Member Robert Kern, the Town Board liaison to the Business Advisory Committee — and a member and former chairperson of the committee before his election to the Town Board in 2021 — asked the board to delay a vote on the proposed code. Kern said the Business Advisory Committee would meet with the Downtown Revitalization Committee, which initiated the pattern book effort, and Barry Long of Urban Design Associates, the planning consultants hired by the Town Board to create the pattern book. They would work together on a compromise concerning the code’s language, Kern said.

MORE COVERAGE: Downtown pattern book code amendments put on hold after business committee raises objections

The two committees met once after that, but did not reach a compromise. The Business Advisory Committee brought its suggestions directly to the Town Board, which rankled the supervisor.

“You can’t come to a Town Board with a code change and you have somebody who can bring such instrumental knowledge,” Aguiar said, reefing to Scherer, “especially from Southampton, and we don’t have the planner here. So I think we have to be a little more cohesive in having the discussions, because right now, I’m looking at this and we’re all over the place,” Aguiar said.

Thomas defended the pattern book, which was unanimously adopted by the Town Board in January 2021. The pattern book recommends changes to the zoning code governing Main Street development including lowering the maximum building height to four stories/50 feet, requiring a 45-degree step back on the fourth floor, and recommending multiple architectural design standards.

“I think those design standards that were set forth in the pattern book, and really came from community engagement, have to stay,” Thomas said. “That’s what the community wanted.”

Thomas said the town has been using the pattern book to negotiate with developers and, working with developers who were willing to negotiate, the town has been able to secure compliance with the pattern book’s recommendations, improving the projects in keeping with the pattern book’s goals. Thomas pointed to plans for 203-213 East Main Street, a mixed-use building proposed for a vacant site between the East End Arts campus and the Riverview Lofts building.

“The building was not in any way compliant with pattern book design standards,” Thomas said. “But we worked with them,” she said, meeting with the developers every two weeks. “We pushed the the design so far (from where it started) just collaborating.”

Thomas said the developers were very happy to be engaged in that process.

Representatives of both the Business Advisory Committee and Downtown Revitalization Committee agreed to meet with Thomas, Murphree and Deputy Town Attorney Annmarie Prudenti to discuss revisions that are acceptable to everyone. The meeting could take place as soon as next week.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.